Zupta curse haunts KPMG as execs quit over shoddy VBS audits

JOHANNESBURG — Over the weekend, auditing firm KPMG was plunged into a full-blown crisis (yet again) as its work for VBS Bank came under the spotlight. VBS – which is currently under curatorship – used KPMG as their auditors for the bank’s last three sets of financials. KPMG failed to pick up any issues in its audits of VBS bank. Luckily, the Reserve Bank was actually doing its job and picked up the problems. SARB subsequently placed VBS under curatorship last month. In court documents, SARB further highlighted how R900m cannot be accounted for. The fact that this happened under KPMG’s watch is yet another indictment of the auditing firm. On Saturday, KPMG announced that two of its execs who were responsible for the VBS audit, Sipho Malaba and Dumi Tshuma, have quit before facing disciplinary action. Malaba and Tshuma further stand accused of having failed to fully declare the extent of loans they had with VBS. The VBS saga now adds further fuel to KPMG’s fire in SA as the local firm is still struggling to recover from its problematic Gupta audits as well as the discredited SARS ‘rogue unit’ report. Below are KPMG’s press statements on the matter. I’ve also included statements from SARB and the IRBA on the latest crisis. – Gareth van Zyl 

KPMG media statement 14th April 2018:

KPMG South Africa announces that two partners, Sipho Malaba and Dumi Tshuma, yesterday tendered their resignations with immediate effect when faced with disciplinary charges brought against them.

Their resignations have been accepted.

Both cases are conduct charges connected to VBS [Mutual] Bank and include, but are not limited to, failure by the partners to comply with the firm’s policies and procedures regarding the disclosure of relevant financial interests.

File Photo: A logo sits on display outside the offices of KPMG LLP in the Canary Wharf business and shopping district in London, UK. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

When VBS bank recently went into curatorship‚ information arose in relation to these partners that prompted KPMG to launch an independent investigation‚ conducted by Bowmans. That investigation is ongoing and further action will be taken as appropriate.

KPMG South Africa chief executive Nhlamulo Dlomu commented:

“This has been a very disappointing episode for KPMG. There can be no tolerance‚ however, of any conduct that compromises our reputation and we have moved decisively to deal with the situation.”

KPMG South Africa announces further steps to accelerate change and rebuild public trust

KPMG South Africa media statement 15 April 2018:

Since last September KPMG has already taken significant steps to change the firm. These include changes to governance, to leadership, significant changes to improve quality and risk management and to our client portfolio and the work we do in the market.

We recognise that each of these measures can only be part of our continuous effort to rebuild public trust. The departure from the firm this week of two partners, as part of the ongoing investigation by Bowmans into events at VBS, is a reminder how much more needs to be done to reaffirm the public’s trust in KPMG.

We are putting quality and integrity at the heart of our mission. Everything we do – in terms of the business we do, the clients we work with, and how we do our business – will be shaped by how they serve these two principles.

As part of this, we are implementing the following immediate additional steps:

1/ Integrity – we have commenced an expanded process of Integrity and background checks of all partners (and their spouses/partners).

The process will be coordinated by KPMG International using the expertise of an external firm and the findings will be reported directly to the Board Quality and Risk committee.

2/ Quality – a new programme of extensive quality file reviews has commenced and will run over the next several weeks. These reviews will cover all audit partners. This program will be in addition to other internal and external reviews that have been carried out to date.

The purpose of this new program is to assess the commitment to quality and professionalism of our engagement teams. These reviews will be conducted by experienced KPMG partners from elsewhere in our network and will be overseen by a board committee of majority independent non-executive directors.

3/ Governance – we will appoint additional non-executives on the Board to ensure that independent scrutiny is built into the DNA of the firm at the highest level.

4/ Implementing a “Speak Up” program: This is an immediate, expanded initiative that will sit alongside normal whistle-blowing policies. We will be encouraging colleagues over the next 30 days to speak up if they believe they have any information of relevance to the quality and integrity of the firm’s work.

In addition to the immediate steps outlined above, we intend to make further changes to our business. We are well advanced in thinking through these and expect to communicate further in the coming weeks.

KPMG South Africa chairman Wiseman Nkhulu commented:

“We recognise that we have damaged the trust of key stakeholders and that further and deeper changes are needed to regain that trust. We must reassure the public and our clients that we are totally committed to the standards they expect. The initiatives we are announcing today, taken with extensive measures already underway, will help restore the reputation KPMG previously enjoyed. We have a responsibility and a duty to rebuild the firm, and the leaders of the firm will stand together to achieve this.”

Nhlamu Dlomu has been appointed to succeed Trevor Hoole as KPMG SA CEO.

KPMG South Africa chief executive Nhlamu Dlomu commented:

“We realise that to build a KPMG that we and South Africa can be proud of, one that has quality and integrity at its heart, we must be prepared to adopt and embrace significant change to our culture and partner conduct. Some of the steps we are taking are not easy, but we are in a position where such measures are unavoidable requirements to rebuild trust.

We are more resolved than ever to take the necessary steps to restore the firm to health. And we will not hesitate to act decisively when issues are identified.”

SARB commissions forensic investigation into VBS Mutual Bank

SARB Media statement 13 April 2018:

On 11 March 2018, the Minister of Finance appointed SizweNtsalubaGobodo Advisory Services (Pty) Limited, represented by Mr Anoosh Rooplal, as the curator of VBS Mutual Bank (VBS).

After a thorough assessment of VBS, Mr Rooplal recommended that an independent review of the business conduct of VBS be undertaken.

Consequently, the Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Prudential Authority (PA)1 , Mr Kuben Naidoo, has appointed Advocate T Motau SC as an investigator in terms of section 134 of the Financial Sector Regulation Act 9 of 2017 to conduct a forensic investigation into the affairs of VBS.

The logo of the South African Reserve Bank sits on a lecturn during a news conference by Governor Lesetja Kganyago. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The primary objective of the investigation that will be conducted by Advocate T Motau SC is to establish whether:

1. any of the business of VBS was conducted with the intent to defraud depositors or other creditors of the bank, or for any other fraudulent purpose;

2. VBS’s business conduct involved questionable and/or reckless business practices or material non-disclosure, with or without the intent to defraud depositors and other creditors; and

3. there had been any irregular conduct by VBS’s shareholders, directors, executive management, staff, stakeholders and/or related parties. Based on the findings of the forensic investigation, the CEO of the PA will take appropriate follow-up action.

According to the Mail & Guardian, the IRBA has launched an investigation into KPMG over its VBS audits. Here are snippets of the quotes from the M&G article:

The Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) also announced on Friday that it had launched its own investigation into KPMG’s lead auditor of VBS’s books.

“The IRBA investigates the professional conduct of registered auditors when there is prima facie evidence that an external audit may not have been conducted in accordance with international auditing standards,” the regulator said in a statement.

The IRBA also revealed that KPMG had only filed a reportable irregularity with it on April 11. This was despite the bank being placed under curatorship in early March and meeting with Rooplal on March 27 to discuss problems at the bank.

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